Monday, December 10, 2012


In the American culture, it is common to run across those who claim that people of “faith” are irrational, silly, and that Christianity is a mere fable. To the standard by which they define faith, they are sort of accurate (we should be able to give a rational account for our beliefs 1 Pt 3:15). However, as Catholics, we should not hold to such banter. Usually when I ask people what faith is, this is the answer that I receive, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This is entirely correct and if you want to stop reading now, it is fine, but some elucidation can only add to the “text book” definition of what we state when we say we are people of “faith."
“Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.” CCC 153. So, we see here that faith is a “gift”.Faith is a gift from God, and in that gift, we are moved to assent to what God has revealed to us. Now, we have come to the point that I think is the separation from most who use the term “faith.” I want to prelude this with a question, “Is faith blind?”Are we Christian’s trapped inside the Platonic cave of Christianity, and refuse to get out? I often hear atheists accuse Christians of such. They hear the textbook definition (…conviction of things not seen..”), and they move to how silly people of “faith” are. We cannot see it. We never know, it could be made up. If we can’t see it, and it’s made up, then it’s a fallacy. I was speaking with one the other day and he kept reiterating how Christians believe in “fables,” and how illogical Christians are. This is the logic that he was using, even if he didn’t know it. This is false! We are not in the cave! Back to the main point;<i> is faith simply a movement of our inner self, without any clear idea with what we are assenting to? If this is so, then “faith” is an opinion. Believe it or not, I bet if I were to ask the average Christian, the average Catholic, they would basically agree to this statement in one way or another. Just talk to the average person about God. Most will begin with what God did for them, and how they know it is God. (I’m not downplaying conversion stories. I actually think they’re great.) But, there’s more objectivity to it.
As persons endowed with an intellect, we shouldn’t stop here. If we continue to read the Catechism, we will find that paragraphs 154 and 155 make VERY clear that although faith is primarily a movement of the grace of the Holy Spirit, IT IS A HUMAN MOVEMENT! I was teaching this other night in a class and one of the persons raised their hand and asked, “Did I hear you right? Did you just say that we do something in faith, we participate in it?” My answer was YES! WE PARTICIPATE IN FAITH! CCC 154 "Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act." In other words, in faith, we participate in God moving us to understand in His way. Our participation is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY and it involves two faculties of the soul. In the Catechism, terminology from philosophy is used to explain this and show exactly what the act of faith consists of and how it differs from science, OPINION, and doubt. The Catechism uses a quote from one of my favorite philosophers and theologians, Thomas Aquinas, to explain faith. If you do not know, Thomas is credited with a complete synthesis of Christian faith, often using Aristotelian philosophy.
“Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” (ST II-II, 2, 9) This is a great definition of faith. As opposed to mere opinion, or mere doubt, we truly assent to propositions. These propositions are connected to the understanding of a person. We can affirm and deny certain things about God because of the act of believing. There is content. It isn’t just warm, fuzzy feelings and euphoric expressions you get when someone speaks of God. It isn’t that “retreater’s high” when they have a “spiritual encounter.” It is more than that! (Again, I’m not downplaying these, but there’s more to faith than feelings. Feelings come and go, God doesn’t.) Following this, FAITH IS LIKE SCIENCE. Why? Because it has to do with a firmness of assent, with an object at its end.
I think an example of how we assent in everyday knowledge might help: Has anyone ever heard of E=MC2? I have heard of it. I bet if you let me talk for about one minute on the subject, you would think that I know something about it. But, after that, you would laugh at me and realize that I know very little about the subject. I do know that it has something to do with the theory of relativity. I do know that a brilliant man by the name of Albert Einstein has something to do with it. I know that it is true. Well, how do I know that it is true? Because I firmly assent to what the consensus of the scientific community tells me about it. Now, at some point, I could drop this theology and philosophy thing and go study what this means. I might, after much study, be able to challenge it, and say that it is not the best (that would be a miracle!!! ) But, the moment I challenge it, I am no longer assenting to it. Before I studied it, I assented to what the consensus of the scientific community has told me. See, UNLIKE HUMAN SCIENCE, faith is the only kind of knowledge that’s motivated by the will. BUT, IT ISN’T JUST SHUTTING MY EYES AND GRITTING MY TEETH and “willing” to believe, as some Catholics hold. It isn’t just the “I think I can, I think I can…” attitude. I have seen Catholics play this out in a number of ways. They almost seem bitter. “Yes, I do this, because I have to…” There is way more to it than that! NO! The will, which is ordered to the greatest good, (see Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3) and thereby moved by love. The will is moved to the person, who is God. By the union and trust of Him, who is perfect love (1 Jn 4) and who never deceives nor can be deceived, the person assents to the propositions of faith, motivated by grace.
So, faith is like human science in that it has propositions. It is like philosophy, because it has syllogisms, etc. It is certain clear knowledge. But, it is not like human science because it has at its end God, and it plunges us into His inner depths. Therefore we can only understand what these propositions are about if God Himself reveals them to us. Faith is, “by no means a blind impulse of the mind.” (CCC156).The mind is involved! It is not just an expression of wishful thinking! But “Faith is certain” (CCC157)! It clarifies our understanding of the inner mysteries of God Himself. However, because it has God at its center, we never truly arise at full understanding! It is as if all the sciences leave you to a point and you still want more, the prince of sciences: Theology. But, even the study of the “sacred science” (Aquinas) leaves you to want more! It’s like you can never arise fully at the end of the quest for knowledge, unless you arrive at the Beatific Vision (but that’s another post).
In faith, discourse, discovery, and assent all run together. In other human knowledge, assent puts an end to investigation. Why? Because we clearly see, touch, smell and therefore understand what we try to discover. I see the tree. I can touch the car. I can touch my computer. This is not so in faith. Faith is a divine knowledge and thus our assent to it doesn’t put an end to our investigation. Rather, it stimulates our investigation even more! But, we play a part of it. The intellect and will interact in the movement, motivated by grace, to the focus of love, and that is God Himself. So, what is faith? It is a willful assent, motivated by grace, to what has been handed down to me. Which leaves the open question of an objective entity to provide such knowledge, as Catholics we believe this is the oldest institution in the world…the Catholic Church. Just because there are problems understanding, that is ours, not Gods. In the words of Bl. John Henry Newman, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” (Apologia Pro Vita Sua)
We are now in “Year of Faith” so I thought it would be appropriate to approach the subject in a number of ways from our faith perspective. I want to hopefully begin a series of what faith is in the next few weeks. Namely, I will explain St. Thomas, Augustine, and John Henry Newman’s idea’s on the subject. In doing so I wanted to began with a textual analysis of what “faith” is from the Catechism. I will hopefully bring the others in weeks to come.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


An essential part of personhood is consciousness. As humans, we are aware of ourselves. We know, we will, and express ourselves in the world. Being conscious, more specifically our consciousness, is one of the chief things that distinguish us from all other beings in the world. This is not the only thing that makes us different. However, the conscience is something that is noticed “from the beginning” as pertaining particularly to the human person. In the Creation account Adam (Hebrew for mankind) discovers that he is a person with a conscience as he gives names to the various animals (TOB, 6.3). In naming the animals, and having “dominion” over them, he realizes his “original solitude”. In “original solitude” Adam becomes consciously aware of his own body(TOB, 6.3). This solitude is common to both male and females, and stems from the very nature of being human. It is as if Adam begins to ask himself, questions we all ask ourselves: who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? And WHY AM I HERE?!?!!?
Vatican II (Guadium Et Spes) states, “Meanwhile every man remains to himself an unsolved puzzle, however obscurely he may perceive it. For on certain occasions no one can entirely escape the kind of self-questioning…especially when life’s major events take place.” Life brings about questions that we each find answers to. Answers to these questions (asked above) often times leads to a subjective opinion held on as objective truth. The answers that one finds will either lead each of us to a true and genuine hope or to a bottomless pit of despair. If we ignore such questions we will never truly know who we are.
I want to take a look at one of the most famous answers to these questions from the viewpoint of a famous existentialist philosopher, Albert Camus. Camus wrote a story you might be familiar with name The Stranger. The Stranger is about a gentleman by the name of Meursault. Mersault lives day by day, moment by moment, with no regrets. He has no emotions, no grief, no repulsion, no love, no feelings toward his girlfriend, no tension, no fear, no anxiety, and no regrets even about killing. One day he stumbles upon the guy who stabbed his friend, and the guy pulls a knife on him. Mersault shoots the man, but he describes it as he is just there and just happens to be there, there’s no agency, but he shoots him almost pointlessly. Mersault is caught and sentenced to death row. He is about to be executed and he asks he notes something very important about life. He looks back on his life and he says, “It doesn’t matter.”He then opens his heart to the “benign indifference of the universe”. This makes sense of his death, and he dies happy.
Camus is making a point about life. It doesn’t matter how you live. You live one way or you live another way; but ultimately it is just void of deeper meaning.The lived experience is the real, the reflection is not. While we worry about the quality of life, the truth is that there is only quantity. The immediate nothingness of life itself really matters. Camus is an atheist, and life was it. Life is absurd and meaningless. The real question is: Why not suicide? He chooses to answer the question this way. The Church notices this inner struggle. Guadium Et Spes states, “…[man puts] forward and continues to put forward, many views about himself, views that are divergent nd even contradictory. Often he sets himself up as the absolute measure of all things, or debases himself to the point of despair.” Camus was such a man. Facing his own view/lived experience we find ourselves asking: Is that it? Is life really meaningless? We are a person’s endowed with a conscience, and our conscience leads us to question many things. The Catechism notices this. It states, “The human person: With his…voice of his conscience...questions himself about God’s existence. (33)
When I do something wrong, when I’m alone, my conscience is the voice of reason (Blessed John Henry Newman goes through this in the Grammar of Assent) that makes me feel ashamed (rightly formed conscience, something for another post). I do not feel ashamed around other beings (a chair, a cat, or a dog). If I do something in front of a chair, that chair’s presence does not have any bearing on me being ashamed. That thing is simply a thing. I can say the same for dogs, cats, and animals. BUT I feel ashamed when I’m around people. But, there isn’t anyone around, and we still feel ashamed. This leaves a question, if there isn’t something visibly around, then why am I ashamed?!?! Something simply has to be there, a person, in order for me to be ashamed. But, there is nothing that I can see, smell, hear, etc. that is there. But, only an omnipresent being could make me feel as such, as it is always present. In other words, only a being that is present everywhere, even in my conscience can make me feel ashamed. This is one of the main attributes of God: omnipresent.
Camus and the world seem to answer the questions of life with “this is it, party today because who knows about tomorrow.” Might I introduce you to an alternative view?The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The human person: With his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence.(CCC 33) The human person asks and asks, but in the conscience one can come to a realization that there is something more. In the conscience we can ascend to the objective truth that God exists, and He loves us so much that he sent He stepped into the world….Why? The Church Fathers say because it was fitting. What Adam messed up, Christ corrected. We are persons designed by love and for love. It’s like having answers to a test, and as Christians we hold the answer key: who am I? I am a creature made by God in his own image. Where did I come from? I came from love. Why did God make me? God made me to love, to give myself to others as he did when he created me, as he did when He gave his Son to die for me on the Cross. These are the answers to life’s hardest questions. All hidden in the conscience
Aristotle has a quote in Metaphysics, “All men by nature desire to know.” This is true on many levels. We want to know more and more. But, here is the answer, right before us, on a crucifix, arisen on the third day. Why? Because He loves you. Some say I’m an idealist. I say, thank God for ideas. Because the eternal idea, became flesh (see Augustine’s On the Trinity), and the flesh tabernacle (lived) amongst us….(Jn 1). Christ is that answer. Now, you have the answers. The question now is; are you living as you know the answers?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Marriage and Family

If you do not know by now, one of my favorite philosophers and theologians is also my hero: Karol Wojtyla or more commonly known as Bl. JPII. He actually wrote a lot about various subjects that have greatly affected my life. He has had an incredible influence on me and in turn, my family. I’d like to talk to you about something that he has written about quite a bit; the importance of family and marriage. You see, for JPII and the Church, the family takes its origin in the marital covenant of husband and wife (CCC 371). This expression is the first expression of our social nature. Aristotle states that man is a political being and, in other words, a social being; he is made for community. But let’s rewind to the Genesis account to get a better look at family and marriage.
I’ve stated this before while speaking on Genesis. I am not going to state if it is literal, allegorical, tropological, anagogical, etc… (big words theologians use). Instead, what I am going to say is it is pedagogical…it is teaching something (please see Dei Verbum, the section on the OT if you want to investigate). It is teaching the “why” and not the “how.” When looking at Creation, you notice something peculiar. See, after God creates He utters, “it is good, It is good, it is good….” Then again, something peculiar happens. He states in Gen 2:18, “it is not good that man should be alone.” The first negative statement that the divine Godhead utters is when man is alone. This says something about the human person.Man is created for community (as Aristotle alludes too). He is created for the other. In this case he is made for woman, and vice versa :). They are meant to live in a social unit (CCC 1882), a family. JPII states in his Letter to the Families, “ [in]the Book of Genesis, the reality of fatherhood and motherhood..[is]..The interpretative key enabling this discernment is provided by the principle of the "image" and "likeness" of God highlighted by the scriptural text (Gen 1:26)..
The family has been here from the beginning, and is a community of love (please see previous posts for description of love) since we are made in His “image and likeness.” See, only persons are capable of living in communion, and the first human communion is that of husband and wife in marriage. “Human fatherhood and motherhood, while remaining biologically similar to that of other living beings in nature, contain in an essential and unique way a "likeness" to God which is the basis of the family...”
What JPII is describing is phenomenal! That the human family, in some analogous way, actually models the “image and likeness” of God. The essence of the intrinsic vocation of man is to love as God loves and to live in a communion of persons or, a family. Man and woman are complementary both physical and spiritual. All one has to do is look at the physical features of man, in comparison to the physical (sexual) features of the woman, to see how elementary this concept is. And this goes without even mentioning all the psychological and physiological ways men and women are complementary!
See, marriage comes into being when a man and woman freely choose to give themselves irrevocably to one another for LIFE. It is a bond that goes beyond, “I am so tired of this…” or “he/she does not make me feel like….”. It is much deeper than that. It is a union that bears the likeness of the union within the Trinity. “the ‘communion’ of persons [family] is drawn in a certain sense from the mystery of the Trinitarian "We", and therefore "conjugal communion" also refers to this mystery. The family, which originates in the love of man and woman in marriage, ultimately derives from the mystery of God.” In the very communion and conjugal act of marriage, in which they are so closely united that they become “one flesh”, it is a bodily, AND SPIRITUAL union. It is through the body that the two are “wired” (or predisposed) to form a communion of persons in marriage, and Christ has elevated to the dignity of a sacrament. The love of husband and wife calls man and wife to cooperate with God in giving life to new human persons.
This is one of the main reasons why Catholics and other Christians are so pro-life, and pro-marriage. We are for these things because these things are naturally a part of who we are and what we were created for. I could go into a long spill about the natural law, to further the point. BUT, I will not bore you to death! :) I will say that the person is designed, both physically and spiritually to live in loving relationships, just as God is perfect relationship in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Monday, October 29, 2012


When I say the word "family," what does that mean to you? Do bad images and memories surface or do we tend to smile and laugh because we know they Well, the truth is that whatever image you happen to conjure up, it is not the fullness of the image because family is what we are made for!
To grab the full meaning of what family is we have to go to...."the beginning." We have to go all the way back to the creation account in Genesis. Now, I am not going to try to argue for the literal meaning of the text (that will be in another rant!), but, I am going to say there is something there! I believe the writer of the sacred text is getting not so much as the "how" things were made, but "why" things are made. Let us look at the text itself (for you biblical theologians- synchronically; as opposed to the diachronic approach).
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. . ." (Genesis 1:26–28). What is happening here? In short, man is made in the "Imago Dei", the image of God. St. Augustine of Hippo states, "“For why the our, if the Son is the image of the Father alone? But it is on account...that man might be an image of the Trinity.”(De Trinitatae) See, we are made in the image of the Trinity!
That leads to a question; what in the world is the Trinity? The Catechism names the Trinity as a "central mystery of the Christian faith...It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’ . . .” (CCC 234). Now, I can absolutely draw out the divine essence, plurality of persons, the relationality, etc. Believe me, I have an MA in Systematic Theology, not to mention working on one in Philosophy now. I can explain in The Trinity in our fine tradition, but not here. Here is where I want to introduce you to one of my heroes. He is one of the greatest theologians and philosophers of our time. His name is Karol Wojtyla. You may know him as Blessed JPII. He has a quote that I think draws the point home: “God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family which is love.”
I want you to notice something. He doesn't state God is "LIKE" a family. He states, God IS a family. See, 2/3rds of the Godhead are named family names. Father, being the eternal, omniscient, Creator, pours out his love on the Son. The Son, being the second person of the Trinity, reciprocates that love perfectly. The love that is shared between them is so real, so true; it is given a name...the Holy Spirit. It is a family of love, because God is love (1Jn4) JPII states in his Letter to the Family, "Humanity images God in the family.” See, our families are not perfect, and that is OK. But, in God, perfection simply "is". God is the perfection of all our families and we are made in this image. So, we are made for the family!
The next time you look at your family and bad or good image come up. Think of this statement: “[God] willed man and woman to be the prime community of persons, source of every other community, and, at the same time, to be a ‘sign’ of that interpersonal communion of love which constitutes the mystical, intimate life of God, One in Three."(Christifideles Laici) We are made for Family, because we are made in the image of the Trinity, and the Trinity is the family. The question is; are you living for what you were made for?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Being "Used" in right to life issues

If you haven't realized this by now, there's a philosopher in whom I deeply respect: Karol Wojytla (Bl. JPII). I want to use his outlook on the human person to better understand the rightful dignity assigned to each human person, and the problem with using another person as a means to an end, particularly through the lens of right to life issues. The dictionary online ( defines "to use" as "to put or bring into action or serve; employ for or apply to a given purpose." This is a great starting point, and helps better grasp what being "used" is. See, we each have certain roles. I am a Adult Faith Coordinator at a parish. I get used all the time! My boss, the pastor, uses me to communicate the faith to adults. I teach, organize studies, groups, etc. In each one of these things, I am being "used" for a good. In this case, like I said, I'm being used to communicate the Christian Catholic faith. If you think about it, we all do this. We all get used some way shape or form. So, it's OK to be "used"!!!
But, is that it! Are we just objects made to be used?!?! Well, that is not it! Especially in relationships, especially in right to life issues. See, we are persons (see my last post and it'll explain what makes us different than animals and objects) Persons are totally different than animals and objects!!!! We have an "inner self" or an "interior life" (Love and Responsibility, 22-23)
"Even a child, even AN UNBORN CHILD cannot be denied "personality in it most objective ontological sense, although it is true that it has yet to acquire step by step, many of the traits which will make it psychologically and ethically a distinct personality (p. 26)." Did you catch that? UNBORN CHILDREN, while still in the embryonic or fetal stage of development ARE INDEED PERSONS!!! See, the child doesn't become a person. It is not 1/4 less of a person while in the fetus. Or, my 6 yr old isn't 3.75% of a person now, and when he is 10 he'll be 6%. This is entirely inaccurate. The person has an "interiority" (a "mindset", an "awareness" already active the moment life begins). The body itself also reveals the human person. We are beings meant to be loved and whose vocation is to love, just by our very being. (again, see my last post)
In Wojtyla's General Audience (Theology of the body) sections 5-7. He develops the nature of man which he called "existential solitude." This is because man is the only creature who is "alone before God" (he takes a deep look at the Gen account before Eve). See, as persons we are the only ones who are aware of our own body, and what it is for. Solitude is something that all of us are aware of, especially when we are being used for an end, in the case of abortion, (the child being used to meet a better lifestyle because the parents aren't "ready.") The person is aware of their solitude because it's in our very nature! He searches for fulfillment of this solitude, and he is aware of it in his consciousness which is different than the animal. "Man is 'alone; this is to say that through his own humanity, through what he is, he is at the same time set into a unique, exclusive, and unrepeatable relationship with God himself." (TOB, 6, 2).
Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II) states, "man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself..." See, man realizes that they are the only animal that is a person because of our awareness of solitude, brought forth from what God has made us with a interiority (conscience). We are persons, we are made for love, real love, a life giving of self to other for that is what Jesus did on the Cross. He loved us and died for us. To "use" someone as a means to an end, is ok (in some instances), BUT, if we leave it at that we are doing what philosophers call “utilitarianism” (only wanting good, without having any pain in our lives). This is not the human experience at all. This is why humans have "rights"! A chair or a rock doesn't have 'rights". The person is made for love and therefore will only find their longing in eternal love, which is God Himself. “I came to give life, and give it abundantly.” (Jn 10) God is Love. Love came to give life. So Love is Life! Love is sacrificial. It fights for life, even if it is uncomfortable and will put a "strain" on the parent. I understand there are "feelings" involved in this. I will address this in another post. But, the reality is we are "persons" endowed with an intellect. Let's use it for something other than living a pain-free life, which is not reality! Let's use it for love.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Christian understanding of Person in the World...

Have you ever wondered what a person is? I mean, have you ever looked out into the world and wondered what makes a person a person? I look at a rock and know that it is not a person. I can look at a car and it is not a person. I can keep doing this over and over. Aristotle notes that there is something in the person that makes the person what they are...he names this the soul (the animating principle).  But, what is an animating principle, a life-force? This sounds like something off of Star Wars! But, really, what is it? Let's take a look around as Aristotle did. See, I can look at a rock and it doesn't move. It's simply there. It doesn't smell, taste, grow or anything like that. It simply is. As I look around the world, I notice plants and grass. These don't eat, smell or laugh, but they grow. It has an animating principle. But, is grass equal to a person? When I cut my grass, will I be arrested for murder? Of course not, unless you're a hippy or Franciscan! (I know that was a bad joke, but it was funny :) please dont be upset).
 So, let's keep doing this; let's keep looking around. I see the rock isn't me. I see the grass has some of the same characteristics as me, but what else? I see animals. Are they like me? I mean they eat, smell, move, reproduce, etc. They are like me, right?!?! Well, let's look at it. Animals have the same thing as humans in that they have sensual knowledge of things. They see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. But, they miss one thing that we have, that is very important. They do not have rationality. I have never seen a group of monkeys write a blog, or a book, or form a library. I have never seen them fly to space (on their own), or play a football game, or even have a sophisticated language (with symbols and universal principles). We are not animals, and animals are not humans. We each have senses, but not rationality. This is the classic definition of a person (Aristotle, Plato, Church Fathers, etc.). But is that it? Here is where I would like to employ one of my favorite philosophers...Blessed John Paul II. He makes it more "personal". He writes a lot about the human experiencing the world. See, the "issue" with the classical definition is that it leaves the world of experience objective. We do not only experience the world objectively. I do not say, "I am going to talk to the person and have a purely objective experience." That is not "real" (as John Henry Newman puts it). He makes things more "real" because all of my experiences affect me. I am the person who is acting. You are the person acting. It is us experiencing the world uniquely. (this is a very brief way of explaining his thought).
Each of us experience the world uniquely, defined by our actions and those around us. Your specific experience makes you who you are. (BTW I'm not saying/JPII saying that if you're not acting you're not a person). Your moral actions make you the person you are. Your actions determine what you will do and who you are. (He takes a great balance of both the empiricists and idealists, found much in the world today.) Do bad...then you're bad. Do good...then you are.....bad..j/'re good. See?! But, there's more to being a person.... he states this in Mulieris Dignitatem "Being a person means striving for a self- realization, which can ONLY be achieved through a sincere gift of self" We are created as persons. I am a person. You are a person. We are all persons, but we are not THE definitive persons....God is. He is what it means to be a person. Those 3 persons show us what it means to be a person. How is it that we know the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit? Well, how is the Father different from the Son? The Son different from the Father? How's the Holy Spirit distinct from the others???? Aquinas, Augustine, even the Catechism (CCC 255) state that the only way that we can tell the difference between the 3 persons is the way they relate to each other. The Father is eternal and gives everything that He is to the Son, except being a Father. The Father eternally generates the Son. The Holy Spirit is different from the two because He proceeds from the two. The Son is eternally begotten. The Spirit preceeds from (technically "spirated", or "generated") in the Father and the Son (there's a lot of deep theology in this!!!).
What does this have to do with being a "person?"....Well, we are made in his image! He says let "US" make man in OUR image! St. Augustine states, "What's the 'we' if it is not the Trinity. If we are made in his image, then we are relational beings. There's more! 1 John 4 states that "God is love." Well, if we are made in His image, and He is love, then what are persons???.....relational beings created by love and for love.  Love is relational. It demands relationship. It is reciprocal! It gives, it receives. It is sacrificial, seeking more, but returning more and more. It gives totally, as God has made us. True love is the Trinity because the Trinity truly gives love. We are truly made for love by love!!! (I'm sure I've lost most of you by now. But, if you're still here please excuse my rant.) So, practically speaking, our being human entitles us to live in loving relationships, to our spouses, children, family, and even strangers. Each person is made for so much more! Now the question is; if to be a human means to be a relational being in love, then what flows from this is...are you really being human?
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Marriage: "Feeling" in love...

My full-time employment is in ministry. Working for the Church, I hear a lot of stories about unfaithfulness, infedility, etc. Of couse I naturally ask, "Why?" I often hear, "I have fallen out of love with her/him." "I mean, I feel like we've grown apart and I don't feel like we're in love anymore," and the marriage is split. I want to state something that I have learned from JPII;

"Love should be seen as something which in a sense never ‘is’ but is always only ‘becoming’, and what it becomes depends upon the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment."
I believe this is where our culture messes is up. Love is not a "feeling," it is a part of our will. Love is technically "willing the good for the other for the other's sake." What does that mean? It means I choose to do beyond what my feelings "feel." See, feelings come and go, but love endures and is more than just mere feelings. Feelings come and go. We are creatures, and creatures change often, especially our feelings. But, love is way more than feelings!  There are plenty times when I do not "feel" like going to work or doing some chore. But, do I.....YES! Love is way more than feelings,it is something I do, regardless of my feelings. (Not to say that my feelings never "feel" like it.)
But, is love merely something I will? I mean, do I grit my teeth and do it as a mere duty, a job? Here is where I think we need to move past the classical definition for "love" (that I wrote earlier). One of my favorite philosophers, Deitrich Von Hildebrand, states that, "love is a value response."Value responses can be enthusiasm, admiration, veneration, etc. These, I do not specifically will (unless I am faking it). Love is a response to another person because they have touched our heart. It is wanting the greatest good for the other, because they are the other and they simply deserve it.
To state that something 'is" is to state that it is not there or here. It is not past or present, but it "is"; now. JPII states it as "becoming." In other words, it is past and present, but it is ever arriving. Love is organic. I want to use an analogy of a tree. Think of a tree. It is a seed, but continues to blossom. Well, love is like this. Love is something that continues to blossom, of course ultimately fulfilled in the future (theologians name this the "eschaton") It always is...more and more of us. But, what happens when you stop watering the tree? It dies. It never reaches, fully, what it was from the beginning. Love is sort of like this. It demands us to give. See, love is a lot more than simply "I don't feel" in love with you. It should move past that.

I have asked a number of elderly, long-lasting, married couples what makes their marriage lasts. The answer that I have almost always heard is something along the lines of: "Life is always changing. It has not always been easy. But, we stuck with it, and it was absolutely worth it."
What our culture doesn't realize is what I have to tell people often, "nothing in this world, that is worth having, is easy." (You can apply this maxim to school, jobs, children, family, etc.) Who said that life would be easy? More specifically; Who said "love" would be easy?

You see, God is love and love is relational, therefore God is relational. (CCC 255) Why is this important? Because we are relational beings, made for "gift" (as JPII puts it in his Wednesday Audiences). We are made to give ourselves because we are "made in His image and likeness." Love necessarily demands reciprocation. It gives, and receives. The person is made to give themselves fully, and this is intrinsic in each. JPII states, "...[spousal] love in which the person becomes a gift - and by means of this gift- fulfills the meaning of his being and existence." (Wed. Audiences Jan 16, 1980). This is love; giving fully of thyself, even in hard times.

Let us stop accepting the culture expression that love is something that is truly based on feelings. Feelings change, love is consistent.